Text: Eph 1:1-14
Please turn to Ephesians 1. We are beginning our study through the book of Ephesians and it should take us through the end of summer to complete it.
Over the next couple of months, we will learn about 4 D’s: doctrine, destiny, doxology and duty. Doctrine is a fancy way of saying what we as Christians believe regarding God. I used to underestimate the importance of doctrine as a younger Christian and even as seminarian. God is invisible. He’s infinite. I’m finite. I’m not smart enough. Leave it to the theologians with PhDs to figure it out. This is a very dangerous way to think. Why? Because Satan attacks us in our minds. Look at the New Testament. Many of the books of the New Testament are letters written by Paul to churches that started with the right doctrine, the pure gospel, and then false teachers came in. Judaizers, Gnostics, various heretics came in and added to the gospel or subtracted from the gospel. Or replaced the gospel with some secondary or tertiary teaching.
Our situation is no different. We have false teachers today leading congregations and entire denominations astray. Follow this new fad. Everyone jump in and begin this new program. Let’s join that new movement. Or follow this great spiritual teacher. Let’s explore new ways of approaching spirituality. Knowing doctrine is every believer’s responsibility. Doctrine is important because if our thinking is off, your doomed from the start. We need to watch our doctrine.
Proper doctrine includes our destiny. What happens to us when we die? What happens when Jesus returns and the world as we know it ends? These are doctrinal questions related to our final destiny.
9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure that He planned in Him 10 for the administration of the days of fulfillment—to bring everything together in the Messiah, both things in heaven and things on earth in Him.
Our doctrine of God relates to our worldview. The way you view the world has everything to do with the God who created the universe. It’s insufficient for a worldview to discuss how one can find meaning and purpose right now and stop there. A comprehensive worldview must also speak to where everything is headed. When Jesus returns again–we call this the Second Coming–everything, Christians as well as the universe will be brought together in the Messiah, in Him, in Christ. So destiny refers not just to our personal destiny, but the final destiny, the curtain call of the entire universe.
One day Jesus will be the Head over the church, as he is today, but much more fully. He will be our Chief Shepherd, our pastor, there will be only one church and He, Christ, will be our head in a visible way. But also, He will be head of the universe. Two creations, the creation of believers constituting the church of God as well as the physical creation, the universe, will be together unified under the cosmic Christ who is the supreme head of both.
Paul received this glorious vision from God. Paul was able to peer back over our infinite past when our election, which we will talk about in a moment, the predestination of Christians before the foundations of the world AND he was able to look forward into the infinite future, the end times or the fulfillment of time when Christ unifies and become head of the spiritual and the physical universe and this vision informed his doctrinal understanding of who God is and what He intends to do and where He plans to take us.
In light of these two infinities, or two eternities, eternity past and eternity future, Paul’s doctrine and destiny flowed into uncontainable doxology. Doxology simply means praise. This is what we will be talking about today. When our doctrine is correct and we are sure of our eternal past and our eternal destiny in the future, doxology or praise overflows from our lips.
Doctrine, destiny, doxology, and finally, duty. Duty refers to how we live. Specifically, how we live relationally. Chapter 4 is a transition chapter because the chapter begins with the word, “Therefore.” Chapters 1-3 are about doctrine, destiny and doxology and chapters 4-6 pertain to duty. In light of what we know to be true in our minds and what we praise with our lips, what is our duty as Christians? Duty within the church, duty in our marriages, duty in parent/child relationships, duty in slave/master or employer/employee relationships.
For the Bible students out there who like having a roadmap of where we are headed in the coming weeks, here is a broad stroke of the next 7-8 sermons.
1) Today, we are going to talk about praise and being a worshiper.
2) Next week, we will talk more about doctrine and doxology. More specifically, proper doctrine not only affects our doxology in terms of praising with our lips, but doctrine also shapes our prayer life. In fact, the rhythm of Christian life is doctrine feeding into praise and prayer, and moving back and forth between the two.
3) We will be going back over another important doctrine about the the mystery of the Messiah and how it affects Christians individually and corporately.
4) Starting in week #4, we will be moving into duty. Ephesians 4 discusses duty as a church as we walk in unity and holiness.
5) Week #5: We move into the first half of Eph 5–again, our duty as a church in terms of our need to walk in love, light and wisdom.
6) Finally, we end with Ephesians 5 – Doctrine, destiny and duty in Marriage. You’ll notice that there is no doxology in marriage. You have to be married for at least a decade to understand why there is no doxology in marriage. Just kidding. Marriage is glorious, but it’s hard work. The gospel itself is embedded in the marriage covenant. We’ll spend 2 or 3 weeks on this important topic.
Now, a brief historical overview. Ephesians was the theologian, John Calvin’s, favorite book. Of course, Calvin’s ideas constitute what we have come to know as Calvinism upon which much of Reformed theology has its origins. From the verses today, you will know right away why Calvin loved this book because if you know anything about Calvinism, I think you will clearly see how the verses in Ephesians 1 had a profound effect in shaping his theology.
Ephesus was a city very much like LA. It was a wealthy cosmopolitan city known for its trade and its spirituality. It was originally a Greek colony and it became the capital of the Roman province of Asia and like LA, it was a busy commercial port. It was also the headquarters of the cult of the goddess Artemis. Paul was successful as a missionary to Ephesus as the book of Acts attests to. Paul was so effective in his missionary efforts in fact that the number of followers of Artemis in the city dropped off. Which meant the sale of of silver models of the temple of Artemis also declined and took away a major source of income for the city. This is why the silversmiths at Ephesus wanted Paul out of the city. Imagine Christians today being so vocal and so effective in our evangelism that Hollywood bans all Christians and forces us out of Pasadena because we are hurting the entertainment business. This is what it would be like to have the same level of impact in our city today as Paul had in his day at Ephesus.
The letter to the Ephesians was meant to be a circular letter, meaning the letter was given to the church at Ephesus but it was not intended to stay at Ephesus. Paul’s aim was to have this letter circulate among all the churches in the region of southwestern Asia Minor. Ephesus happened to be the most prominent city between Rome and Antioch so it makes sense that the letter went there first, but again it’s intended audience was much larger.
In addition, it should be noted that this letter was written while Paul was imprisoned in Rome around the year 62. He was under house arrest in Rome, basically handcuffed to a Roman soldier. But he was free to write, hence this letter. Christian tradition holds that Paul was beheaded a few years later in Rome during the reign of Nero around the mid-60s so this was one of Paul’s final letters.
Among Paul’s writings, Ephesians is a unique book because Paul is not addressing a particular issue or a specific sin at the church in Ephesus. In the Galatians epistle, Paul was upset about the fact that false teachers added the human tradition of circumcision to the pure gospel. In Colossians, Paul wrote to them out of his concern over their defective view of Christ–they denied His humanity while not accepting His full divinity. In Ephesians, however, there was no pressing problem. If you want to be a healthy Christian and you want to be part of a healthy church, Ephesians is a book we ought to get familiar with.